Italian Experience To Back Kansai Plascon’s Cape Epic Victory Quest

    Alessandro Gambino (left) and Mirko Pirazzoli will for Team Kansai Plascon 2, the back-up team to Team Kansai Plascon 1’s Max Knox and Leo Paez who will be hunting for podium finishes at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.

    Max Knox, the South African marathon champion that’s gunning for glory at the 2017 Absa Cape Epic, is fully aware of the importance of having a back-up team if you are serious about trying to win the world’s most prestigious mountain bike stage race.
     
    Knox (29) raced two Cape Epics (2012, 2013) as back-up team rider to the event’s most successful racer, Christoph Sauser (five wins and 36 stage victories), as well as the late Burry Stander, the only South African to have won the coveted title. Now it’s Knox’s turn to be the rider going for the glory as he pairs up with Colombian racer, Leo Paez on Team Kansai Plascon. And it’s his turn to have a back-up team.
     
    Paez (34) and Knox have an all-Italian duo in Kansai Plascon 2 to offer them all the on-the-bike support they need during the demanding seven-day race from 19–26 March. Mirko Pirazzoli and Alessandro Gambino will spend every moment of every stage thinking about how they can assist their No. 1 team to challenge for victory, whether it’s stage wins or the overall title.
     
    Gambino and Pirazzoli are both members of the Italian-based FRM Factory Racing Team. Gambino has done some marathon racing in recent years, but his roots lie in XCO and Cyclocross.
     
    A member of the Italian national Cyclocross team from 2001–2012, Gambino (32) racked up a number of successes in this discipline, including a bronze medal at the 2009 Italian championships and 10 victories at international events. In XCO he’s finished on the podium four times at the Italian national championships and has competed internationally since 2002.
     
    Since starting the longer marathon distance races in 2014, Gambino has had a number of top 25 finishes at UCI Marathon Series events and top 20 finishes at other European marathons. He won the 2014 Via del Sale and was second in 2015 and 2016 at the Etna Challenge Marathon, as well as fourth at both of last year’s editions of the Assietaa Legend and Ortler Bike Marathon.
     
    Mirko Pirazzoli (42) has been racing since 1996, making him one of the oldest UCI Elite category racers in the world. He was a regular top-20 finisher in XCO World Cups from 2000–2010 and a member of the Italian national team from 2001–2010, during which time he finished on the national champs podium seven times.
     
    Although he spends a good deal of time nowadays working on FRM, his own bicycle and components brand, he still races at the top level in marathons and has a number of top 20 finishes in UCI Marathon World Series events from 2005–2015.
     
    Both Gambino and Pirazzoli are skilled, highly accomplished racers. This will be their first Cape Epic, but their role to ride back-up to Knox and Paez is their priority. Both are trained, experienced bicycle mechanics too, so any mechanical issues will be managed with composure and efficiency.
     
    Back-up teams also assist in pacing their No.1 team riders back following a mechanical or crash and can also help shield them from winds in the early part of a stage to ensure they’re as fresh as possible when they tackle the more crucial latter parts of a stage.
     
    Because Paez and Knox have different bicycle brand sponsors, each will have a back-up rider on the same bike. Gambino, will mirror Knox and ride a Rocky Mountain Element 999RSL, while Pirazzoli will ride a FRM Anakin, the same as the one that Paez will compete on.
     
    The Cape Epic rules prohibit riders from getting outside assistance during a stage, but allow for assistance from fellow competitors. Here is the full rule:
     
    Cape Epic rule 9.4: Any rider may receive physical assistance from his/her team partner or from a fellow competitor. For purposes hereof, “physical assistance” shall mean the sharing of water and nutrition, sharing of bike parts and accessories (including the swopping of bike frames), assistance with maintenance and repair, and pushing/towing by physical contact only.
     
    “Getting myself and Leo to the finish line as fast as possible each day is the Kansai Plascon squad’s priority. Having a strong back-up team has become almost the norm in the past few years for any team with victory as an objective,” said Knox.
     
    “I haven’t met Alessandro or Mirko yet, but they come with a long list of credentials that shows they have extensive race experience and understand the little things that can make a big difference. The fact that they are both experienced bike mechanics is also a bonus because the Cape Epic is raced on rough terrain and the risk of mechanical problems is ever present,” added Knox.
     
    While they won’t be able to stay with Knox and Paez on the steep climbs, Gambino and Pirazzoli will not be too far behind and should be within minutes of the Kansai Plascon 1 pair through most of each stage. Paez and Knox are also experienced and able to do most common repairs, but in the case of a broken pedal or heavily damaged wheel, Kansai Plascon 2 will be able to offer parts or a complete bike if necessary.
     
    The Kansai Plascon teams will have full technical support throughout the Cape Epic from This Way Out, a leading outdoor sports retail and service chain that employs among the most credible bicycle technicians in South Africa.
     
    For updates on the team’s progress in preparation for and during the Cape Epic, follow @TeamPlascon on twitter and Team Kansai Plascon on Facebook.